Developing Sustainable Stored Grain IPM Systems in Oklahoma and Texas

2003 Annual Report for LS02-139

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $133,371.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Southern
State: Oklahoma
Principal Investigator:
Thomas Phillips
Oklahoma State University

Developing Sustainable Stored Grain IPM Systems in Oklahoma and Texas


Sealing work of concrete silos at Nash and Yukon, OK were completed by the PI and OK Field Manager. The maintenance crew at the Ponca City elevator sealed their own silo vents and flat storage structure with guidance from the PI during the winter and spring, 2003. They also coordinated installation of temperature monitoring cables in the silos with suction aeration/CLF system.

The PI designed and purchased components for two low volume suction aeration systems that could be retrofitted to concrete silo systems at Yukon and Ponca City and suction equipment for the flat storage at Ponca City during the spring and summer, 2003. .

The Ponca City maintenance crew installed their own suction aeration system and CLF system in concrete silos and flat storage warehouse during the spring and summer, 2003.

The PI and OK Field Manager worked with maintenance personnel at Yukon, OK elevator to install the suction aeration and CLF systems during the late summer, fall and winter of 2003.

The PI and OK Field Manager worked with the Tonkawa farmer to seal two steel grain storage bins and install his CLF system and aeration controller in fall and winter of 2003 and early 2004.

Research work, lead by the PI and research engineer (RE) continued steadily throughout 2003 and to date in 2004 on the Electronic Bin Board and Electronic Grain Blending Model, EBB/EGBM. During the spring and summer, 2003, the decision was made to change from a linear based software program to GAMS.

The results changed EBB/EGBM from a slow program limited to analyzing 10-12 silos maximum with close, but not exactly repeatable results on successive iterations using identical inputs, to a very fast global optimum (exactly repeatable) program capable of analyzing optimum blending of up to 175 silos simultaneously in less than 5 seconds.

The EBB/EGBM has been evaluated for direct linkup and high speed communication with a new commercial software from an elevator scale manufacturing company, Unibridge, Inc, Woodward, OK. EBB/EGBM Beta tests have been initiated at two OK elevators, one country and one inland terminal elevator at Shattuck and Enid, OK.

In mid-April, 2004, the PI, RE and software engineer working on EBB/EGBM took the software to Shattuck OK and demonstrated the system, and received valuable feedback from experienced elevator grain managers. Elevator operator feedback is being received to improve EBB/EGBM. The results appear to be very good, both with independent and without linkup capabilities.

Sustainable practices -- Sealing, CLF, suction aeration, computer grain segregation (EBB) and optimum grain blending (EGBM), grain temperature monitoring.

Objectives/Performance Targets


1. Demonstrate and compare closed loop fumigation (CLF) technology in well sealed storages with conventional fumigation as a cost effective, sustainable IPM component of Oklahoma and Texas farm and elevator grain storage systems to improve efficacy, safety, and profit.
2. Conduct physical and economic benefit analysis of suction vs pressure aeration systems operated by electro-mechanical automatic aeration controllers compared with manual control in steel bins and concrete silos at farms and elevators.
3. Document the practicality, including cost:benefits, of increasing aeration airflow rates from the standard 0.1 cfm/bu to 0.2-0.3 cfm/bu in bolted steel farm and elevator storage systems.
4. Evaluate physical and economic practicality of installing low airflow suction aeration plus CLF in existing concrete silos to minimize "grain turning" while improving sanitation and safety.
5. Document worker exposure to phosphine fumigant health hazards and safety using CLF vs conventional fumigation.
6. Establish a quarterly newsletter focused on grain storage IPM for farmers and elevator operators in OK, TX and other states available via OSU's Stored Product Internet web-site.
7. New Objective Added in 2003: Develop a computer or website-based software model that will serve as an electronic bin board (current operating storage record of all grain in identified silos) and electronic grain blending model to provide repeatable, global optimum grain blending to meet contract or market specifications while maintaining the maximum amount of premium grain.

Performance Targets:

Review the 2003 Annual Report for this section.



Because the highly qualified deep probe grain sampling technician (over two years experience conducting the same work for OSU on USDA Area-Wide project) could not be hired, and the early grain sampling opportunity was missed, project grain sample comparisons and most of the related work was discontinued. This resulted in not sampling grain in Texas and most of OK, not completing and installing most of the aeration controllers or closed loop fumigation systems (all TX units and most of the OK units).

However, part of the important demonstration work that could be accomplished in OK with the OK Field Manager was conducted as outlined below.

Also, the added project of developing the Electronic Bin Board and Electronic Grain Blending Model, EBB/EGBM, was carried out and has resulted in an excellent sustainable product that appears to be a major, long term benefit for OK, TX and U.S. grain elevator managers.


Sealing of concrete silo under-roof vents was completed on grain elevators by the PI and OK Field Manager at Nash and Yukon, OK by the PI and OK Field Manager during late summer, 2003. The steel bins at the Feller Green farm, Wakita, OK were sealed in the summer, 2002. Steel bins at the Joe Caughlin farm, Tonkawa, OK were sealed during the fall, 2003. Permanent sealing of silos and bins is one of the most sustainable projects that a grain manager can do.


The suction aeration and closed loop fumigation (CLF) systems for the flat storage and north concrete silo annex were designed, purchased, delivered to the Farmers Coop Elevator, Ponca City, OK. The elevator maintenance and management crew installed these systems and completed the sealing and temperature cable installations during the summer, 2003. The PI then tested the system for performance characteristics during the late summer, 2003. The aeration controller was installed at the Farmers Coop Elevator, Ponca City, OK by the elevator maintenance crew during the summer, 2003.

The suction aeration and CLF systems for the north concrete silo annex were designed, purchased, and delivered to Mid-Oklahoma Elevator, Yukon, OK during the late summer, 2003. The PI and OK Field Manager worked with the elevator maintenance crew during the late summer and fall to install this system. The electrical work to connect the suction aeration fan and CLF blower was completed during February-March, 2004.

Installing aeration systems to cool grain and minimize pesticide use and installing/using CLF systems to provide uniform, phosphine gas levels with reduced dosages are also long term sustainable projects of high value and efficacy which improve profits.


During the first year of the project, a new low cost objective of great sustainable value that could be developed within the budget was conceived by the PI and supported as doable by the Research Engineer. This sustainable grain management and marketing system, the development of an Electronic Bin Board (EBB) combined with an Electronic Grain Blending Model (EGBM) software would be highly valuable to many U.S. grain elevator managers. The EBB/EGBM software will help grain managers at U.S. grain elevators and grain flour and feed mills optimize sorting, storing, managing, controlling of quality characteristics and marketing of their grain to minimize discounts and maximize profits.

This new objective -- to design, develop and test a computer software program for tracking and then optimizing blending of grain to maximize elevator profit was included in the project.

We envisioned the EBB/EGBM software program could include all U.S. grain grade factors plus protein, test weight and moisture content and that most available market discount schedules could be stored in the model software for automatic use.

The Research Engineer (RE) organized and coordinated many meetings with the PI and two OSU faculty from the Agricultural Economics Department, Dr. Brian Adam (PI) and Dr. Kim Anderson (Collaborator), members of the project and OSU’s Stored Grain IPM Education and Research Team. During two years of development, the RE hired several engineering graduate students from Electrical, Industrial and Agricultural Engineering graduate programs to develop software programs for the EBB/EGBM software program model.

After the first year, we recognized that the computer algorithm being developed was too slow and cumbersome. The linear program that was selected and used limited the number of silos that it could analyze for optimum blending to about 10-12 silos and results were not totally repeatable. We stopped the design process by the contracted engineers and the RE took over the software development himself. We felt that to be effective, the program should be able to analyze 40 silos simultaneously and rapidly with global optimum repeatable/identical results.

During the summer, 2003, the RE monitored an Agricultural Economics course that related to several alternative program languages which could be used for computing optimum conditions. He found a program which was virtually unlimited in speed and volume called GAMS. A free downloadable version of GAMS can handle 190 variables (up to about 175 silos simultaneously) and process full sets of our data in 1-5 seconds. GAMS was selected to drive the EBB/EGBM software program model, which it does effectively, producing “global optimum” solutions that provided repeat runs of identical data with each iteration. Data from as many as 150 silos have been processed simultaneously for blending large shipments of grain.

During the fall, the RE hired an Agricultural Engineering graduate student to develop the user interface templates that would provide user-friendly application by grain elevator managers. This process involved meetings with the two designers and three PIs at about two-three week intervals during the fall and winter.

In early April, our group felt the EBB/EGBM software program model was ready for Beta testing. We took the EBB/EGBM software to a meeting with the software consultant for Unibridge, Inc. (a progressive truck scale company from Woodward, OK) which has developed a software package that incorporates truck load grain weight data with grain grading data to build spread sheet files for all received grain.

After reviewing both systems the RE and Unibridge’s grain data software (UGDS) consultant felt these two software packages can be linked for automatic feed-forward and feed-back data transfer communication. This communication would allow UGDS to forward all silo fill data (which includes the data of all graded grain by truck loads that had been transferred to designated silos) to EBB/EGBM , then as each new truck load of grain arrived, was sampled and graded, UGDS would query EBB/EGBM for the silo which the new truckload of grain was most nearly like and whether there was space for that load in the silo. Within a few milliseconds, EBB/EGBM would reply with the recommended silo. As soon as UGDS confirmed that the truck had dumped the grain of exact weight into the designated silo, UGDS then updated the EBB/EGBM with the amount of grain and the silo, so EBB would update the silo data.

EBB/EGBM can be used independently at country or terminal elevators which do not have the UGDS truck scale software. The EBB/EGBM can receive data from EXCEL spread sheets, which a grain elevator clerk or grain manager can complete, then load into the EBB/EGBM, or the data for individual silos can be manually loaded into EBB/EGBM.

The main strength of EBB/EGBM is its ability to take evaluate grain characteristics in a large number of silos and prescribe the optimum grain blend from these silos to meet contract or market specifications, while still retaining the maximum volume of premium or high value grain. With discount schedules preloaded into EBB/EGBM from all designated markets, the grain manager can decide based on grain discounts and transportation expense, where he can sell his grain at maximum profits. The EBB/EGBM will provide U.S. elevator managers with a sustainable marketing tool that they have not had access to – EBB/EGBM is much faster and precise than any grain manager can do manually, yet it allows him the flexibility of manually controlling the process, by removing any silos he wants from the review process so he can force the Model to use limited data as he chooses.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes


We feel that EBB/EGBM is one of the most powerful grain marketing tools developed in the past quarter century for U.S. grain industry. It has the potential of being a Home Run for the grain industry, benefiting producers and elevators by keeping elevators in business to service local farmer clients. If EBB/EGBM can successfully communicate with UGDS and/or similar software, it could even develop into a Grand Slam Home Run for the U.S. Grain industry.

Although developed for wheat only at this time, we plan to continue work at this time to expand EBB/EGBM for most of the large volume commercial U.S. cereal and coarse grains and oil seeds which have U.S. grain standards: corn, soybeans, sunflowers, sorghum, barley, rice, oats.

We feel EBB/EGBM can be adapted to incorporate these other grains by our software engineer and RE by mid-to-late Fall, 2004.


During late summer and fall, 2004, we plan to develop a SARE Website or linkage with our OSU Grain Systems and Stored Product Center Website. There we plan tol display presentations, illustrations and discussion of grain bin and silo sealing materials and technology, dust control equipment, closed loop fumigation (CLF) systems, aeration controllers, suction aerations systems at two SARE sites and the EBB/EGBM software product.


However, proper sealing of a grain storage structure of any type (sealing all fans and base openings except when ready for use, like aeration in the fall, and grain unloading augers sealed until time to unload the grain will keep insects out of the base of the grain storage, and force them to enter the top, where they are much easier to monitor and control.

Thus, SEALING is one of the most important, sustainable, cost effective actions – and the best investment -- that an elevator manager or farmer can do for his grain storage facility.

Sealing improves fumigation of any type of structure by a factor of 2X to 8X (or more, based on a concrete silo sealing study by Noyes in 2001), depending on how leaky it was initially. Proper base and sidewall sealing provides barriers to insect entry to the base and sidewalls of storage units, forcing insects to enter at the grain surface where they are easier to identify, contain and control. Sealing is low cost, can be done with local labor when work loads are low, and benefits last indefinitely.


When the very ambitious objectives of this project are considered, the project might appear to be a failure. But, when one great sustainable product can be developed in a $133,000 project, I feel the project has been successful. We have an excellent product evolving from this study – the electronic grain inventory and blending model – the EBB/EGBM -- was not in the original stable (original objectives) of planned work and products. However, it quickly came into focus as we began to work with the grain industry of OK and TX.

The -- the EBB/EGBM has the potential for major improvement in sustainable profit generation for country grain elevators, grain terminals and mills in OK, TX and throughout the U.S.

Sealing storages is a powerful management tool. It is the most sustainable action that a farmer or elevator grain manager can do. Even though we did not seal as many as planned, we have an excellent set of illustrations that will be displayed on the website.

I am pleased to submit this Annual Report outlining a major success developed in this project.

Respectfully Submitted May 3, 2004

Ron Noyes (in lieu of signature)

Ronald T. Noyes, Ph.D., P.E., Project Leader
Professor Emeritus, Former Extension Agricultural Engineer
Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering Department.
Oklahoma State University